Follow me on Twitter

Follow 140miles2glory on Twitter

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A day to remember!

With friends and family directly behind me and Brad, the man that drew me into the sport of triathlon on my right, I stood in the sand waiting for the start of an adventure of a lifetime. I glanced over at Brad a couple of times, he looked relaxed and unphased by the task ahead of us. My guess is that his stomach was churning as rapidly as mine. But this was different than in the past. I was excited. A day earlier I told Brad that I was nervous; I felt like I had to give a speech in front of thousands of people. On race day I felt ready, like a bullet that needed to be fired. I suspect the difference between Saturday's nerves and Sunday's excitement was a pair of kisses from my wife and mom, a big bear hug from my dad, and handshakes and hugs from friends who came to support Brad and myself on our big day. The laughs and encouragement from all of those special people made my start better that I could ever have hoped!

The horn sounded and melee began. All 303 athletes competing in the full 140.6 mile race abandoned the safety of the beach for the chilly waters of Lake Erie. The water was black and muddy at the start, it matched the tone of the wetsuits worn by most of the competitors. It didn't bother me since the water got better by the time I dove in and began my freestyle. Early in the race a woman next to me hit me square in the jaw as I was coming up for air. The force of the blow submerged my face at he same moment I was taking a breath. It took a few moments to cough out the water but I never stopped swimming and had an uneventful and fun swim after. I was also very straight with my navigating and that made the swim much easier.

Exiting the water after 2.4 mile swim.
I exited the water and my time was 1:16-something. I had estimated I would finish the swim between 1:15 - 1:30, so I was really happy when I looked at my stopwatch. I ran on the beach and heard encouraging words from everyone and I saw my buddy Rick as I ran to T1. I yelled hello and kept going. I heard my name a couple of times but never saw who it came from. I didn't see anyone else until I got to the bike, there I saw my mom and wife cheering me on. I felt like getting more kisses but decided to treat this like a race and move forward.

As I hopped on the bike and sped away from my friends and family, I was all smiles. I thought to myself how fun that swim was and I was filled with a feeling of total bliss. That feeling would be short-lived. The euphoria I experienced riding on the Cedar Point Chaussee was replaced by horror when I turned onto Route 6. I made the turn and headed NW on the state route. As I made the turn I caught a glimpse of my shadow on the road......something didn't look right! I noticed that the rack holding two water bottles behind me looked like it was missing a bottle. My immediate thought was, "Please let it be the bottle on my right that is missing." It wasn't, It was the one on my left. The missing bottle contained a spare tube, patch kit, inflation device, CO2 cartridges,tire lever, multi-tool and a special attachment called a "crack pipe." A crack pipe is a special tool I needed for a tire change on my disk wheel. Very few riders would be carrying one of those if I needed help.

Me in Milan minus one water bottle.
 For 109 miles I rode with the fear that a simple flat tire could destroy my hopes of finishing what I started nine months earlier when my ironman training began. The nerves from Saturday were back and intensified 1000%! Around mile 100 things got a little brighter when an SUV pulled up next to me and started cheering me on name? It was my wife and parents, they had gone out to lunch and were on their way back to Cedar Point and the transition area. Seeing my family and hearing their encouraging words were just what I needed, my speed increased from about 17 mph to 25 mph easy! I finished the bike portion stronger than I ever could have hoped and was so relieved that I didn't need the tools I lost over five hours earlier!

As much as I love cycling, I am not convinced the human body is designed to do it for long distances. At the end of the 112 mile ride, my hips and feet were both very sore. Not exactly the ideal scenario at the start of a marathon for a guy who is hardly a runner. The first couple of steps I winced from the pain from the bottom of my feet, I wasn't even out of the changing tent at transition. I put on a brave face and headed out where my wife was waiting, I waved, smiled and headed out for a 26 mile run.

The pain in my feet slowly disappeared and I was free to "run." The fatigue created by the first two legs of my journey caught up with me on the third, no surprise. I ran most of the first of two loops, walking at each aid station as I replenished fluids. I made it back to the start of my run only to have to turn around and do the whole thing over one more time.

I was optimistic as I headed back out, I saw my wife and mom who were now joined by my aunt. Seeing the three of them bolstered my spirits and kept my feet moving forward. The next 10 miles were long and filled with a mix of running and walking when I had to.

Since the run course is two loops I got a chance to see Brad during his run on three different occasions. Twice we spoke as we passed, one time we did a "stop-n-chat." After each encounter with Brad I got stronger and moved quicker, I hoped he was effected the same way.

The last three miles were fueled by the optimism that I would actually do this. As I reached the top of the only real hill on the whole run, I could see the transition and finish. Shortly after I could hear the festivities. I turned down the first chute toward the finish line, I heard a voice in the distance, "Is that you Jason?" It was Dee and her husband Greg. I can't remember what else they said but I remember they both started running with me and yelling. It was sooooo exciting and I will always remember that as the start of my magical finish!

I turned the corner and passed my Dad who had found a place to park 200 yards from the finish, I could hear him yelling for me and my legs grew stronger and my pace increased again. I knew that once I passed him he would be on that Iphone, sending a heads up to my mom and wife that I was on the way and relaying the new to those who could not be there in person.

Glory achieved!
I reached the last 25 yards of running and a volunteer asked me if I would like to carry a flag in honor of it being September 11th. "Hell yes!" I replied and I was handed a full sized flag on a pole that I proudly carried across the finish line. The same finish line that I started swimming, biking and running towards nine months earlier. Just like that, I was an Ironman, forever!

Ann was within two feet of me when I crossed the finish line, my mom and aunt too. All of them misty-eyed from the emotional moment. I hugged them all, truly happy and for once amazed at what I could do. The day was perfect, it exceeded my expectations and was worth every second of pain, sweat, and sacrifice during my training.

The moments that I will remember the most are the ones I spent with my family and friends! They made the day special and worked and sacrificed a lot to cheer Brad and myself on and give us strength when the fatigue started to show. Sunday was one of a handful of those magical days in my life that I will remember forever, and all of you that shared that special day with me will be part of those memories!

Thank you to Rabbit, John, Rick, Greg, Dee, Teresa, Brian, Aunt Marsha, my Mom and Dad and the most wonderful wife in the world!

A big special thanks to you Brad, I am not an Ironman today without your knowledge, encouragement and unwavering optimism. You made me believe that I could do something that common sense said I couldn't do. I am forever grateful!

Brad and I after our Ironman adventure.
 Photos courtesy of Brian Coon

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Emotional Wreck

On Saturday, four hours before kickoff,  I was walking around the field of the Ohio State Buckeyes. The walk has been part of my pregame ritual before shooting each game for many years. Usually I use that four or five minutes to think about the game and come up with a couple of angles I have yet to exploit at Ohio Stadium. This Saturday, eight days before the start of my 140 miles to glory, I could only think of my race. I made a mistake and let the idea of crossing the finish line enter my consciousness. My face started to get flush, my eyes welled up and tears started to stream down my face.

Sunday my dad sent me a text, inquiring about my status and checking to see how stressed I was. I confessed that I was an emotional wreck and thought I knew why. For the last nine months my therapist has been two-a-day workouts, sometimes even three. Now that I am in taper mode and getting more rest than I am used to, I am going a little crazy and in need of a release valve or something is gonna blow.

That is why I am back here after letting this blog fade for the last few months. Writing helps me stay sane and hopefully keep those emotions in check until I need to utilize them next Sunday at 7:05 AM when I go for a 2.4 mile swim. Many of the hours I used to run, bike or swim will be available for preparations and writing in my long forsaken humble blog.

Tearing up at the Ohio State football game can be a little embarrassing. I only hope the next tears are ones of joy as this wannabe ironman crosses that magical finish line.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Grownups Table

I have some remarkable friends who routinely do amazing things. Lately they have been busy achieving their goals and I can't help but be a little jealous of their accomplishments. I awoke on Saturday, inspired my my comrades.  I had a little extra time on my hands and thought to myself that I should do something special today. I should surprise myself and do something that amazes me. A lot of different ideas bounced around my skull, but one persisted.

I went to work and finished by 2PM. I went home and prepared to do something epic. I scratched a note for my wife, it read, "Went running, keep your phone handy. Heart J."

For the last three years I have run at least one half-marathon. Some call it a half, others refer to it as a mini. I prefer half but neither feels too good coming out of my mouth. I never like having to qualify the distance with half or mini. I plan on competing in a full-Ironman in September that ends with a marathon distance run, and I have felt a tad bit uneasy about that being my first marathon. Saturday, I decided that September would be my second marathon, not the first.

I packed a Camelbak full of water, two bananas, power bars, wallet, keys, and one phone I was hoping not to use. I drove to the bike trail and headed South. My plan was simple, run 13.1 miles, turn around and make it back to the car. The furthest I have ever run is about 13.5 earlier this January.

I took off with a very conservative pace, about a 9 minute mile with a heart rate of 150 bpm. If I didn't pay attention to my speed I would creep into the 8:30 pace which is too fast to last for me. The miles went very slowly, by mile 6 I started to wonder if this was a bad idea. It was raining pretty good and I had no idea if I was heading into a storm.

I had not told a soul of my plan, so turning around and ending up with my monthly half-distance training run would have been a respectable accomplishment to anyone, except myself. I kept running, every once in awhile I would think of Forrest Gump and how he to ran without much of a plan. The rain died down and I had the trail to myself. I made it to Bellville and stopped to get in my Camelbak. I grabbed a banana and consumed it in 30 seconds easy. I used the facilities and continued South. It was getting real now. I was past the 10 mile mark and I knew that turning around now would make a 20 mile run. If I kept going, I would need to run a 5K, turn around and run another 5K just to get to where I am right now. After that I would still have ten more miles!

I kept running and hit the 13.1 mile mark at 2hrs 4mins. I was hoping for 2 hours but had not factored in stops, so this was pretty good.

The run back was hard, but I was determined not to be defeated in my head. It was okay if my legs gave out, but I wanted to stay positive and mentally strong. My pace slowed considerably, no shock there. I was now running up hill with less than fresh legs. I broke up the rest of the run into 6 segments, making the completion of each a small victory. My left Achilles tendon was tight, my right knee felt like it was full of fluid, and I had a nagging pain in my back. When I analyzed the pain I decided none were too uncomfortable and I proceeded North.

I reached the finish with no fanfare, the packed lot where I parked contained my car and one other. There was no arch to run under, no vuvuzelas sounding, no announcer mispronouncing my name, and no wife to hug at the finish. There was just me, with a big old smile on my face. I bent over and placed my hands on my knees truly amazed that I had just run 26.2 miles! It was only then that I realized I could run that far. I don't think there was a single second in those 4+ hours that I believed it was possible. I never walked and only stopped long enough to open that backpack.

I will ride his high for a while and build on it. Training is great, but sometimes milestones are necessary to keep things fresh and mark one's progress. Saturday I joined the grownups table with a FULL marathon. Man, does it feel great to use the word FULL!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Journey great, destination better!

American author Greg Anderson is quoted as saying.' Focus on the Journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it."

That is fine and I do not disagree, sort of. I do think it is about time someone stood up and took up the mantle for the finish. It seems that the finish's public relations team  has been slacking and needs a swift kick in the butt. I might just be the person for the job.

I workout 10-12 times a week, my current goals are to ride in the Mohican 100K mountain bike race, perform very well in the Muncie Ironman 70.3 mile triathlon in July, and finish the Revolution3 140.6 mile triathlon in September at Cedar Point. I have completed the first two distances, the third is the relentless monster that wakes me up in the middle of the night.

During my weekly workouts I push hard at times and other times I focus on lasting, making my specialty "going the distance." During those times when I am at my breaking point, I think of crossing the next finish line and how amazing it will feel. My blood moves quicker, my breathing gets a little easier, and my mind becomes euphoric. I have to admit that part of the journey IS pretty cool.

Since getting up off the couch and getting in shape, I have taken many journeys, and finished quite a few races. Actually I have finished them all, knock on wood. I have run a half-marathon, raced in mountain bike and road races, and finished two triathlons. All of my training was beneficial and memorable, but the feeling of crossing that finish line was like a drug that you can not get enough of.

Hi, my name is Jason and I am an addict! A finish line addict.

Saying that it is the journey and not the destination is something you tell someone that is still on the journey portion of their quest.  I have never heard someone talk about the journey once they are on the desired side of the finish line. It is crossing the line that transforms couch potatoes into athletes.

I will concede that a finish without the trials and tribulations of training would be hollow and unsatisfying. There must be suffering during the journey to make the destination so sweet. Oh and how sweet it is too. On more than one occasion tears of bliss have dripped from my cheek as I crossed that magical line. I remember everyone like it was yesterday.

Mr Anderson, it is admirable and accurate to write about the virtues of "the Journey." All of my experiences so far lead me to the conclusion that there is also plenty of joy to be found at the finish. Wanna race me there?

Monday, March 7, 2011

A Good Story

I am feverishly reading back issues of Triathlete magazine, enjoying hand-me-downs from a friend and fellow triathlete. You can find his blog here. One of the articles that inspired me was about a 65 year old by the name of Richard Decker.

In 2009 Mr. Decker was returning to the Big Island after 25 years away. He was returning to Kona for another dance with one of the world's most difficult races. His goal was to beat his previous time of 15:14:17, a time he earned at age 40. At 65, this was one lofty goal. A goal he would not accomplish!

Richard had finished the swim and bike and was five miles into the run when he felt something pull around his right Achilles tendon. He wasn't sure what had happened but it made running difficult. He knew he would have to walk a good portion of the race. He called it the "Kona shuffle."

Richard walked into the darkness, past the Energy Lab to the Queen K. He encountered a man on a cell phone on the side of the road. He asked the stranger to call his son and tell him that he wasn't sure he was going to make it. He told the stranger to tell his son to inform family and friends of the news and head back to the hotel. Richard continued in pain, shuffling in the direction of the finish line. Minutes later he heard someone yelling at him. It was the man with the cell phone. The man relayed this message from Richard's son: "You will make it back before the midnight cutoff!" "We are monitoring your progress and you need to pick up the pace and we'll see you at the finish!"

With a quarter mile to go, Richard's wife and son were waiting on the side of the road for him. They cheered him on and Richard's son ran next to him, encouraging him that he could do it. He would finish! Richard did finish. He was the last racer to finish in 2009, 48 seconds before the Kona Ironman cutoff!

Craig Alexander and Chrissie Wellington greeted the 65 year old Ironman with hugs. His family and friends and thousands of spectators cheering him as he crossed the line. It must have been incredible.

When you are out there, alone. Always remember that you are actually not alone at all. Your friends, family, training partners and competitors are with you. They have the power to inspire you, as much as your accomplishments inspire them!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

183.4 or Under the Wire

Growing up, no one looked to me for math help. I decided as a youth that fun trumped math every time. I was not the sharpest compass in the desk drawer.  On Monday I used every bit of math skills I could recall from years long gone. The story problem this wannabe Ironman was asking himself was: How many times does Jason have to run around the Y's running track to complete his month's half-marathon? Here is what I knew; the track at the Y requires 14 laps on the outside lane to equal a mile and a half-marathon is 13.1 miles. My brain struggled with the puzzle. I decided a calculator could solve my problem, so I grabbed my iPod. I decided that if 14 laps = 1 mile, I could multiply 14 by 13.1 and get an answer to my story problem.

14 x 13.1 = 183.4

With this information tattooed to my brain, I took off for the Y. In one pocket was my trusty Ipod, in the other was the lap counter I use in the pool. It looks like a mini watch for your index finger.  In my hand was a 32 oz bottle filled with endurance fuel, orange flavored. In the lobby of the YMCA, I ran into one of my friends, Reese. I asked him what he was doing there, he replied "Racquetball." Reese is an awesome racquetball player, so good, when we play we don't need to keep score. He asked what I was doing there and I explained my plan. "How many laps is that?" "183.4." I replied. He asked me if I was off work on Tuesday. I said that I was, but this needed to be done in February, Not March! He looked at me as if I were crazy and then wished me luck.

I won't bore you with all the details, I finished and it was not fun! The track is shaped like a bean and has one really sharp turn. After 183 of these turns, certain parts of the body become quite irritated. The knees, the ankles, and the toes to name a few. I ran for nearly two hours, the group of runners surrounding me rotated out three or four or five times in that period. For about 20 laps I reversed directions when it was only me and one other woman on the track, that felt real nice. I watched my lap times fall from 34 seconds to 42 seconds in that two hours.

I have a goal to complete a half-marathon every month leading up to my Ironman attempt, so far I am two for two. This one was just under the wire since I am still recovering from an illness. Other than a sore knee, I have to say that I am feeling much better and am very pleased to be working out again. It was a full week I was off and I was starting to go a little crazy!

Here is a fun video that my triathlete friends and I enjoy very much, skip it if strong language offends you. I recommend watching it and laughing!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Forced Rest

If you see me in the near future, try hard to fight your irresistible urges to hug me or kiss me hello. Not because I am anti-social or because I don't like you, but because I am sick and probably contagious. The consensus at my house is that I am suffering from a case of streptococcus. My best guess is that I picked it up on Monday while covering an assignment at the Y in Bucyrus. Fifty children were in a small room eating, playing, and running around.

A day earlier I was struggling to take a day off from my workouts. I knew I should rest but I decided to go for a fun ride on my mountain bike. It meant that I would not have a day off from exercise for twelve days. Well, it turns out I have had four days off in a row, with more in my near future. I wish I wasn't sick, but it is nice to have a "valid" excuse for rest. There is no way I could do much of anything aerobic. There is a certain peace in not having that choice.

I have been laying around, not doing much of anything. Much of my day is dedicated to sleeping. My nights are reserved for watching bad infomercials and reruns of Law and Order. The longer I sleep the more my throat hurts when I wake. I keep the naps short and try not to fight the insomnia in the middle of the night. Last night I woke at 2:30 and watched TV until 5:30 when I dosed off.

I rented a couple of flix online. I made some soup that makes my throat much more tolerable. I have discovered peppermint tea; delicious with honey and lemon! My wonderful wife has been taking care of me. She has pumped me full of a combination narcotic and holistic remedies. She brought me popcorn tofu and salt and vinegar chips from Whole Foods. This morning she even brought all the meds into the bedroom with a mug of hot tea. In return she got grumpy, irritable, sick boy. Sorry Sweetie!

The good news is that it wont be too long before I am back in action, but for now I am going to try and enjoy this forced rest. For all of you that warned me about resting, insert your Itoldyousos here. _______________________. Thank you :)
People become really quite remarkable when they start thinking that they can do things. When they believe in themselves, they have the first secret of success.

Norman Vincent Peale